‘13 Reasons Why’: Helpful or hurtful?

Although many people find the subject uncomfortable, the Population Reference Bureau said that “suicides have become the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States” as of June 2016. Suicide is not pleasant and is depicted in an authentic, painful way in Netflix’s new series “13 Reasons Why,” based off of the book by Jay Asher.

However, arguments have begun to break out online over the series and whether their method of confronting this topic is beneficial or hurtful for those struggling with depression and suicide, like Hannah Baker, the narrator and subject of the show.

While some people are critical of the graphic aspects of the story, others are supportive, say ing suicide is being portrayed authentically.

“…Each year more than 44,000 Americans die by suicide,” an article critiquing the show said. Prior to that statistic, the article detailed guidelines for media discussion of suicide including “don’t sensationalize the suicide” and describe suicide as anything but “committed suicide.” The show was stated to have violated all of the listed guidelines.

Clearly, both sides of the argument care about the issue at hand, but disagree on how it should be presented to an audience.

But the problems concerning suicide are mainly only depict ed in the show’s final episode. While the plot initially centers on the reasoning behind Han nah’s final actions, the rest of the show discusses other socially stigmatized topics, including cyber bullying, sexual assault and stalking.

“There’s nothing about this story that’s polite; you can really tell a story that’s going to start a conversation,” Brandon Flynn, who played Justin in the show, said.

In a couple episodes sexual assault is addressed, involving two different victims. Once again it was a topic not shied away from, but confronted head on.

“[Hannah] might even dis associate a little bit… a lot of times victims of trauma talk about feeling apart from their body,” Dr. Rona Hu, psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, said. “She goes blank, you see the light go out of her eyes, and she’s completely lost a sense of herself at that point.”

None of these topics are easy to confront, no matter how they are portrayed. Yet a topic like sexual assault is common across the nation and can never be ad dressed enough.

“Very rarely do I think we show the bravery and the candor and the pain that exists on the other side of being a survivor and how damaging, how deeply damaging that is both we see with Hannah and we see with Jessica,” Alexis Jones, founder of the I Am That Girl and Protect Her websites, said.

Once again the question re turns to whether “13 Reasons Why” addresses these subjects appropriately or made it more damaging for those personally impacted.

“The whole issue of suicide is an uncomfortable thing to talk about…but it happens and so we have to talk about it,” author Asher said.

Debates will surely continue, especially if the show ends up expanding with a second season. Despite conflicting opinions, one thing is certain: the conversation surrounding these previously taboo subjects has started and will not stop anytime soon.

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